Observations about the universe, life, Lausanne and me

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Charon (Losinj II)

There Chairon stands, who rules the dreary coast -
A sordid god: down from his hairy chin
A length of beard descends, uncombed, unclean;
His eyes, like hollow furnaces on fire;
A girdle, foul with grease, binds his obscene attire.

Even old Charon has to go with the times - and with the increased population. A car ferry might be less romantic than an old, creaky wooden boat, but it gets the job done.

Photo taken in Valbiska, Krk, while waiting for the last ferry going to Cres.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Võ in the Water (Losinj I)

Well, I am back from my short holiday in Veli Losinj. It was very nice - the weather was excellent, and those pesky tourists that normally crowd the place were gone. All was awesome, except when I discovered that stepping on sharp rocks while taking photos is not always conducive to a continuing integrity of epi- and hypodermis, and when my mother fell on her head and got a light concussion together with a superpower: She can now make x-ray machines fail catastrophically, which will be handy come the invasion of the x-ray vision aliens. Coincidentally, the Hospital in Mali Losinj does not have a working x-ray any more.

So, when I was not bemoaning the fate of my foot, or rendering first aid to my mother, or painting, I was taking photos, some of which will be featured on this blog the next couple of days.

Today's photo is not mine, though, but one of those rarest specimen - a photo featuring me.

Image credit: Dad

 I am trying to practice the third Tao of Võ Vietnam - trying is the keyword here, because you don't know how bad your equilibrium is until you have tried to do your techniques in the shifting sand, knee-deep in water. Suffice to say that this is not how the kick should be done - my guard should be up, dammit, and my back straight.

Monday, September 28, 2009


During my holiday I started painting in acrylics - much easier than watercolours, since you can re-paint everything as often as you like! Here is the first picture I am more or less happy with:

More because I am pleased with how the waves turned out, less because the ship is a bit deformed, and because I painted a spar over the headsail...

Friday, September 18, 2009

Bollocks to this...

... I am off to Croatia again.

Time to catch a few rays before the most dismal seasons of the year - autumn, winter and spring.

Image source: Wikipedia

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Faffing about in fog

So I had this trip planned on Sunday: A quick drive to Valais, then a 6-hour jaunt through the Vallon de Nant, over the Col (i.e. mountain pass) des Pauvres, then back to my car. The morning started out a bit foggy:

 I was confident that as I would get higher - my planned route to the Col des Pauvres would lead up to an elevation of 2100 metres, a thousand higher than my starting point at the Pont de Nant - I would climb above the fog.  But soon I noticed to my dismay that the fog was rising - the race was on. I pressed on like a loon, and managed to outpace the fog for a bit at the hut La Chaux:

 But alas, a wrong turn cost me fifteen precious minutes, and soon I was back in the clammy embrace of the fog. Still, I took the lead again, and arrived at the Col des Pauvres after two hours, one hour before schedule and twenty minutes before the fog. Here is one of the peaks adjacent, the Dent Rouge (red tooth)

 The descent was... interesting. Fortunately the trail was very well marked, because visibility fell to about twenty paces

 even so I managed to loose my way for a bit, but found it again soon afterwards. A good thing I had my iPhone and it's GPS with me - while the Swiss Carte Nationale are very accurate and detailed (1:25000), they don't help you very much if all you can see is the next tree! After a while I got below the worst of the fog near Euzanne, and then it was a pleasant stroll back to my car through mysterious, foggy woods.

 Except for the spiders. Enraged due to the fog messing up their beautiful webs, they were ferocious - and if it hadn't been for my various edged weapons...

Finally, here is the GPS-track of the hike:

Map created by EveryTrail

Friday, September 11, 2009

New reactor, part III

(see also part I & II)

The plasma box I designed came back from the workshop, and it looks great! (Also lends itself to beautiful macro-photos, see the post yesterday).

My student will have to test eight electrodes with various patterned surfaces. In the background you can see the box (middle left) that will enclose the plasma, and it's lid with the hole for the RF  (i.e. radio-frequency, which provides the power to drive the plasma) connection (middle right). The white stuff on the sides are two pieces of Teflon insulation, to insulate (what a surprise!) the RF electrode from the electrical ground of the box.

Now all that's left is to build the RF connection with it's vacuum feedthroughs,  and to match the RF generator to the characteristic impedance of the new reactor. If all goes well, I'll do a first test-run by the end of next week!

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Wednesday, September 9, 2009


Ferrofluids are awesome, especially when you happen to have some ridiculously strong neodymium magnets lying around.

Ferrofluids are colloids - a suspension of superparamagnetic particles in a carrier fluid. If brought into a strong magnetic field, they will form the above pattern of corrugations, an effect known as normal-field instability to physicists, and as wicked cool to everybody else.

In a completely unrelated note, bringing your fingers between two of the above-mentioned neodymium magnets hurts.

Monday, September 7, 2009

A quick jaunt to Paris

this weekend, and here is the obligatory Eiffel-tower photo:

Had a very good time at A&A&M&I's house-warming party, and was again struck by what a great city Paris is - even if it is a huge sprawling behemoth filled with totally crazed drivers and (worst of all, so my French friends tell me) Parisians. See me having a discussion with M over my new camera (she is more of an old-fashioned film fan, and therefore wasn't very impressed by it):

Very excellent is their new system (well, new as of 2007, but I had not used them before) of public bicycles that you can rent at automated stations, once you make sense of the awful and confusing touch-screen interface, that is.


and last but not least, M (again, 'cause I was too shy) showing me her magic "glowing spit-bubble" trick:

Wednesday, September 2, 2009


Sniffling, snacky, snapy
sometimes snappy, seldomly snarched;
snareless, snarp, sneaky,
skin sneith and snever:
stop snubbing snails
sniggering snobs!

You can have so much fun with access to the OED ;)

Tuesday, September 1, 2009



meet Inachis io, or European peacock (Tagpfauenauge in German, paon du jour in French) - he flitted in front of my lens last Sunday.